This so-called ocean flood shot on the sun deck on August 7, 1972. The radiation it produced was so powerful, it would have been harmful to the astronauts if a moon mission had taken place.
We live together on the surface of a small rock in the immediate vicinity of an angry plasma death ball which gives us the energy we need to survive but can also swallow our entire home with Nary a burp.
So, you know, sometimes this plasma bullet causes problems. Like blowing up a lot of underwater mines during the Vietnam War, according to a paper published October 25th in the magazine Space Weather.
"Space weather" is a collective term for the various energetic gobbets the sun regularly, unpredictably cast in our general direction. These gobbets are usually mild, but can be quite powerful. Scientists do not know exactly how often they occur, and the energy blocks have the potential to do all sorts of damage, from rooting the global satellite infrastructure to drastically touching things for life on earth. The most powerful example of record was studied in 1859, and its effects were noted primarily by skywatchers, telegraph operators and people who discovered the strange southern aurora that was created. If it happened in our modern electrified era, its consequences would be much more serious.
There have been major space weather incidents since, but none on the scale of the 1859 event. And researchers are still investigating the extent of their potential for injury. In space weather paper, researchers dug up old Navy records, suggesting that a famous sun storm from 1972 was even more serious than they had realized. [Flying Saucers to Mind Control: 22 Declassified Military & CIA Secrets]
"Between 2 and 4 August 1972 [a sunspot] produced a series of brilliant flares, energetic particle enhancements and land-based ejecta, "they wrote.
These flares cleared the way for "the subsequent ultrasound … shock … which reached the ground in record time – 14.6 hours."
People all over the world noticed the effects of flare.
"Dayside radio blackouts … developed within minutes. X-ray emissions from prolonged flare left [high] for [more than] 16 hours. For the first time, a space-based detector observed gamma rays under this sunflower. [Experts] rated flare of Comprehensive Flare Index Level 17 – the highest level and one awarded only the most extreme and wide-spectrum flares, "they wrote, adding that" spectacular Aurora "strong enough to shed shadows seemed along the south of Britain's coast … Within two hours commercial airlines reported pilots aurora as far south as Bilboa, Spain. "
Researchers later found that the flare caused damage to solar panels on satellites in space; a defense communications satellite "suffered a mission ending orbit," and airwave sensors connected, suggesting that a nuclear weapon had detonated somewhere on the planet.
"This is one of just a handful of events in space age that would have caused an immediate threat to astronaut safety," the researchers wrote, "had people been in transit to the moon at that time."
And in some way, in the midst of all this drama, space weather researchers had largely ignored another consequence of the storm: "The sudden detonation of a" large number "of the US Navy … sea mines [that had been] fell in northern Vietnam's coastal waters just three months earlier. "
Pilots flying the area discovered about two dozen explosions in a mining field of just 30 seconds, the researchers wrote.
Naval researchers investigated, and finally concluded that the storms were the result of the solar storm that triggered magnetic sensors in the mines that had been founded to detect the transfer of metal vessels.
According to the researchers, this event led to major changes within the Navy, which quickly investigated alternatives to the magnetic sensor's mines that would be more resistant to solar effects. However, the story never really left for space weather research.
Now, researchers said, this event illustrates the modern challenge to figure out how big this one (or those who are even more powerful) would affect modern infrastructure. And it is still unclear, they wrote, what qualities in the storm made it so intense. Was it the speed of the bottle? The multiple stains clear a path through space before the big one? The magnetic environment around the world on time?
It is still unclear they wrote what a powerful sun storm could do for critical satellites, or how common it was. In July 2012, a big storm missed the earth, instead, hit nearby satellites. How did it compare?
There are still too many unknowns.
Originally published it Live Science.